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Suburban Phoenix brewery enjoying early success

PHOENIX — Since earning status as best new brewery in the world from a popular beer-review site in the winter, business is booming for Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company in Gilbert.

Owner Jonathon Buford said word has spread about the seven-month-old brewery since its January crowning from voters at

“We’ve seen about a 300 percent growth when it comes to people walking through the door,” Buford said. “We had a few things go wrong in fermentation, as they always do, and it was just the worst time. So it was a little overwhelming. It was good and bad all at once.”

Buford sold his window-washing business four years ago and tapped into his wife’s 401(k) to open the brewery. He’s been a little shocked at all the positive response but he knew it was possible.

“I knew that if we built something based on local first, as a brewery, and were able to sustain that in small batches, we could do something special,” he said.

Arizona Wilderness was also recently featured in Esquire magazine. Buford said he was overwhelmed with the article, which he expected to be a short piece and ended up being several pages long.

“We spent an hour with (writer Eric Benson) and I just poured my heart out to him about my passion,” Buford said. “About using local ingredients, and becoming a staple of the community based on the foundation that we love this state and love who we are.”

As the outpouring of support continues for Buford and the rest of the brewery team, he said it’s more important than ever fore the brewery to stay true to its roots.

“Our philosophies got tested during the initial rush of success, but we continued to stay local and stay the course for the direction we originally wanted to go. We made sure to do that, and I believe that’s still the route we’re on today.”